The Buccaneers attacked their secondary head-on in free agency and the draft, so does that leaveAlterraun Verner
on the outside looking in?
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In 2014, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed free agent Alterraun Verner to a four year, $27.5-million dollar contract to come help Darrelle Revis and Johnthan Banks in the secondary. From there, you know the story; Revis released, Banks and Verner relegated to the bench in 2015 for Sterling Moore, Jude Adjei-Barimah, Mike Jenkins, and Tim Jennings. Now, under the new regime, Banks and Verner were given a vote of confidence. They would be retained and given the opportunity to return to form in this new defensive scheme.
Now, the Bucs go out and sign Brent Grimes and Josh Robinson in free agency, they pursued Josh Norman and ultimately lost out the Redskins, and used their first round pick on Vernon Hargreaves III. That gives the Bucs four, arguably five, starting caliber corners on the team. There aren’t too many five corner sets for a defense, so who is the odd man out?
You know Grimes is going to start. His reputation, production, and big play ability make him a no-brainer. Next, you would think Hargreaves would start in some capacity. It’s most likely going to be in the slot, allowing him to man up on the smaller, faster receivers as he becomes acclimated to the pro game. You certainly don’t draft a guy at eleventh, would’ve been their pick at nine had they not traded down, and have him ride the bench. A top-ten, top-fifteen pick needs to start and make an impact immediately. So that, theoretically, leaves one starting corner spot open opposite Grimes on the outside.
It’s reasonable to assume that spot goes to Banks. Although it wasn’t this regime, the Bucs invested a second round pick in Banks and he is the only corner on the team with the size to match up with the bigger receivers the Bucs will face. Robinson will likely be a rotational, depth player but could start on a lot of NFL secondaries. But where does that leave Verner?
Verner is now reunited with secondary coach Jon Hoke, his secondary coach from his days with the Tennessee Titans that helped develop him into a Pro Bowl player. Unfortunately, there just aren’t enough spots to go around. Verner is in a difficult situation and will have to really play head and shoulders above the other corners to earn a starting spot for 2016.
At the same time, it’s hard to pay a guy $6.75-million dollars this season to sit on the bench. He’s already been paid $2-million of that for this year, leaving $4.75-million for the duration of 2016, plus another $6.5-million for 2017. Cutting Verner now causes $2-million dollars in dead money that has already been paid to him, but provide the Bucs with cap flexibility next off-season.
I’m a firm believer that Verner is poised for a bounce-back season, but unfortunately I don’t think he is going to get many opportunities to prove this, barring injuries. It will be an interesting camp battle to say the least, but if the Buccaneers are planning to release one of the guys from this position group, they need to do it sooner rather than later. It would be really unfortunate for a guy like Verner, if he is the unlucky one, to be released when most teams’ rosters will be set, causing him to struggle finding a job. For Verner’s sake, I am hoping he has a bounce back season and we see that Pro Bowl player we signed in 2014.